Cultural tip on SDG 10: A book about the development of inequality

  • 2022-12-14
  • Janna Degener-Storr
Scene from the film adaptation of the book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century": A lot of people standing very close together in a pool
Scene from the film adaptation of the book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" © STUDIOCANAL

‘Whosoever hath, to him shall be given’ – the best-selling book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ shows that this is true. Goal 10 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to "".

Our economic system provides for increasingly few people to be increasingly powerful. Karl Marx, the author of the classic book ‘Capital’, assumed that this was the case even in the 19th century. With his bestseller the French economics professor Thomas Piketty takes up this point: Is Karl Marx’ assumption correct? Or is inequality reduced by growth, competition and technological progress? How did income and wealth develop in the past, and what can we learn from this for the future?

‘There is no reason for us to assume that growth in itself causes equality,’ Thomas Piketty writes, adding that this was why economic analyses needed to focus on the long neglected issue of inequality once again. The expert’s work is based on in-depth research. Nevertheless, the author shows empathy for a wide range of readers, making the book very readable also for laypersons. He explains the historic context, for example, and with a wink he describes the ‘pronounced - and clearly exaggerated - fondness of apocalyptic predictions’ and the ‘equally exaggerated propensity for fairy tales or happy endings at the very least’ which led to the development of his discipline. This is how the book can make a well-founded and fascinating contribution to the frequently rather emotional public debate.

It has close to 800 pages, despite the fact that source information and references were outsourced to the . Thomas Piketty draws an important conclusion: The history of inequality is determined by economic, political and social players. In doing so, they can learn from the past. The author believes that possible solution approaches include investment into education and eco-friendly technologies, an annual progressive capital tax and ‘democracy based on European standards’. The of the best-selling book is also very worthwhile.

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